Captain Cuthbert Alban Key MATTERSON – (Scout Officer) (‘B’ Company) Awards: Mentioned in Despatches
Captured: 24 August 1914 Repatriated: 16 November 1918
Personal: Cuthbert was born on 7th June 1883 at Blackheath, Surrey. He was the youngest son of William Key (Captain 22nd Regiment) and Jessie de Mowbray (née Darnell) Matterson.
He had 6 older siblings, Margaret Ellen Stormouth Key, Robert de Mowbray, William Alban Key, Stormouth Key, Rowland Burdon Key and Cecil Mary Key.
Cuthbert’s father died on 16th February 1891, aged 46, and the Census of that year (RG 12/1890) shows Cuthbert and his sister, Cecil, living with their widowed mother and 4 Domestic Servants at Drayton Court, Drayton, Somerset.
In 1901 (Census RG 13/895) Cuthbert was a pupil of Henry Malden at Henley House, Frant, Sussex, being ‘Tutored for University Exam‘. We know, however, he had already enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment and served in the Boer War.
The 1911 Census (RG 14/21870) finds him serving with the Regiment and stationed in Chester. In the December quarter 1913 Cuthbert married Judith Salkeld Robinson (left), in Chester.
Their daughter, Jessica Mary Fitzgerald, was born on 26th August 1919. A son, Robert Salkeld, followed on 28th August 1928.
The 1939 Register shows Cuthbert and Judith living at ‘Standerwick’, Langport, Somerset. Judith died in Bridgewater, Somerset, on 23rd January 1941, and Cuthbert re-married Audrey Victoria Bryant Deshon in the 1st quarter 1947.
Cuthbert died, also in Bridgewater, Somerset, on 10th September 1968. Probate Records valued his estate at £27,031 (equivalent to about £450,000 today – 2020). Audrey was 85 when she died on 1st September 1985.
Military Service: Cuthbert was embodied as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, Cheshire Regiment on 14th January 1902. Records show he had served in the South Africa (Boer) War.
After he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, from the Militia, on 29th November 1905. Cuthbert was promoted to Lieutenant on 9th August 1907 and Captain on 1st December 1914, whilst he was a Prisoner of War in Burg bei Magdeburg, Germany.
Mobilisation on 5th August 1914 found the 1st Cheshires in barracks at Londonderry. They marched two days later to Belfast and embarked on the SS Massilia, which docked at Le Havre on 16th August.
Captain Lintorn Shore was given command of ‘B’ Company, with Capt. C. E. Jolliffe as his 2 i/c. The other Officers of the Company were Lieut. C. A. K. Matterson (Scout Officer), Lieut. A. E. Newson (Special Reserve) and 2/Lieutenant H. N. Atkinson (Special Reserve).
On 23rd August 1914, as Chief Scout Officer under Captain E. A. Jackson, Cuthbert swam the Conde Canal at night to reconnoitre the German position, an action for which he was to receive a ‘Mention in Despatches‘. An account of this action was recorded by Captain Jackson:
“The following day, Sunday 23rd August, about noon the battalion (now with the Norfolks, kept in reserve to the Dorsets and Bedfords already holding the railway at Wasmes) was split. ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies went to dig trenches at Petite Wasmes, while ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies advance 5 miles to hold a cross roads.
The Scouts of ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies under Captain Jackson led the way and arrived without hindrance. The scouts went on to try to locate the enemy and shortly came in touch with a German picket. They continued to keep in touch with the German picket until dawn when they withdrew with the rest of ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies to reach Petite Wasmes at 3 am on Monday 24th August, re-joining ‘A’ and ‘B’ companies. During the night two of the scouts Lieutenant Matterson and Corporal Tunnicliffe crossed the Conde Canal and brought back useful information. Lt Matterson was mentioned in dispatches for this action.”
The following day, 24th August 1914, 15th Brigade, consisting of 1st Norfolk, 1st Bedford, 1st Cheshire, and 1st Dorset, were ordered to prepare a position in rear and in reserve around Dour. But on the morning of the 24th the order came to send them into action to hold up the enemy advance whilst the remainder of 5th Division withdrew. Both Battalions, 1/Norfolk and 1/Cheshire, marched from Dour to Audregnies and at about 11.00 a.m.Colonel Ballard began to place his (1st Norfolk) Battalion along a line from 800 yds. (500 m) North of Elouges along a track parallel to the main road between Elouges and Audregnies.
The Cheshire’s C.O., Colonel Boger deployed his Cheshire companies to extend the Norfolk lines westwards for about a mile to the west.
Cuthbert was in ‘B’ Company, commanded by Captain Shore, and was ordered to take up position to the west of the line facing the oncoming German Divisions, covering the Wiheries-Audregnies and Elouges-Audregnies road junction.
… how the Battle developed over the course of the day.
In he early afternoon came “Dyer’s Charge“. In Lieutenant Matterson’s own words: “2.30 pm Captain Dyer then called out, “Advance and Enfilade the Enemy”. I jumped up and left the road and led the attack. I was alone some 20 yards in front of the gallant little firing line of about 6 men who followed me.
I had drawn my sword with scabbard on, the latter, I remember pulling off, and throwing away. There was a hail of bullets, and how I escaped I don’t know.
I made up my mind it was certain death. I was soon joined by Dyer and together we headed the little counter attack. We were followed by Jolliffe and Massy, and a few more men. We made two advances, and we raised a cheer when we heard the enemy were retiring, a thing I never saw and do not believe happened.
The picture of this little counter attack I shall never forget. Men were falling all around us and their cries were dreadful. Dyer then said it was hopeless and we must get back. The retreat was almost worse, and the ground was covered with killed and wounded. One bullet hit the ground under my stomach as I raised myself on my elbows. My life, as someone said, “was charmed”.
I don’t think anyone could have had such near escapes. Dyer was hit twice on the way back, and I stayed with him, and persuaded him to make another effort to get behind the
cottage. We went together and I got him back untouched.”
Cuthbert’s actions that day probably saved Captain Dyer’s life. Few would doubt that he should have been recognised for his bravery.
By 3.45 that day the Battalion had been surrounded. Men and ammunition were both in short supply. By 6.30 p.m. every line of retreat had been closed. Major Chetwynd-Stapleton gave the order to cease fire.
.…. a .pdf file giving Lt. Matterson’s full account of the Battle, supplied by his daughter. [Source: “Prison in Paradise” unpublished memoir of Major Eric Archer Jackson, 2 i/c ‘C’ Company]
Mentioned in Despatches: Lieutenant Matterson was one of 18 Officers and Other Ranks ‘mentioned’ in Field Marshall J.D.P. French’s Despatch of 15th January 1915: “In accordance with the last paragraph, of my Despatch of the 20th November, 1914, I have the honour to bring to notice names of those whom I recommend for gallant and distinguished service in the field.” (London Gazette Issue 29072 16th February 1915. Page 1662)
Cuthbert was taken prisoner later in the day and as a p-o-w he was by 31st August 1914 at Torgau Camp where he was part of the choir.
He reached Burg bei Magdeburg on 24th November 1914, with Captain Tahourdin, Major Chetwynd-Stapylton and Captain Dugmore and on 1st December 1914 he promoted to Captain (as a prisoner of war),
Like many Officer p-o-ws he was moved around to many camps: 6th January 1915 – Magdeburg; 23rd June 1915 – Augustabad; no date for Ludwigshafen but transferred on
12th February 1918 to Ingolstadt’
On 5th January 1918 Cuthbert arrived in The Hague, Holland with Captain B.E. Massy.
He was repatriated on 16th November 1918 with fellow Officers Massy, Elliot, and probably Chetwynd-Stapylton. They left Rotterdam for Hull on ‘S S Stockport’. (All mentioned in (possibly) December 1918 Oak Tree Article).
After retiring from the Regiment Cuthbert and his wife moved to Bridgewater, Somerset, where he died on 10th September 1968.
- In addition to the usual research tools I am grateful to Paddy Jackson for access to the material for his (as yet) unpublished book of his father’s experiences as a p.o.w. in the Great War – “To a Prison in Paradise”.